HOPKINS COUNTY, Ky. (7/4/13) – Did you know that three of our founding fathers — Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826; and, James Monroe died on the same date in 1831?
Many people don't know those facts, but they are useful tads of information that Chandy Melton, Madisonville Community College history instructor, uses to get her students hooked on history.
"Sometimes, reading from the text books doesn't catch some students' interests," said Melton. "You have to find the right story for them to get their attention."
Melton said her students enjoy less commonly known facts about the Revolutionary War and our founding fathers' quest for independence.
"Students are often interested to know that Benjamin Franklin was in his 80s while attending some of the constitutional conventions," she said. "He often had to be carried to them but he was determined to help make it happen."
The summer days following the signing of the Declaration of Independence were filled with celebration featuring musket and canon fire and fireworks, which are now the tradition.
Melton said another little known fact is that the Declaration of Independence was kept for several years at Fort Knox after the bombing at Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Hopkins and surrounding counties are steeped in American history going back to the Revolutionary War.
The county's roots were planted after the war by veterans, who were presented land grants for their efforts to gain the nation's independence.
Several Hopkins County founding fathers were land grant recipients from Virginia including Gen. Samuel Hopkins, a Revolutionary War veteran, who was an early settler for which Hopkins County was named. The 552-square-mile county was the 49th in order of formation on May 1, 1807.
Other notable settlers include Frederick Wilhelm and Baron Von Steuben, the Prussian general who had instructed the Revolutionary army at Valley Forge during the winter of 1976-77.
According to the Hopkins County Historical Society website, Von Steuben was wounded during an attack while on his first visit to the area and quit-claimed his property.
On his grant of several thousand acres in the northwest part of the county, a salt spring was named Steuben's Lick that by the 1880s was the community known as Manitou.
Independence Day holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Hopkins County residents, who readily acknowledge the continuing efforts of U.S. Armed Forces men and women with historical markers, monuments and parades.
If you would like to learn more about Hopkins County history, please visit the Hopkins County Historical Society website.
Rita Dukes Smith
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